Today is a special episode of You and Me and Everyone We Know, an audio diary made by everyday people living through the Covid-19 pandemic — in today’s episode, my great friend and long time collaborator Carly about her evacuation from Rwanda to Wisconsin. Then Carly introduces friends in Santa Cruz, California and Kigali, Rwanda as they share how the pandemic has affected their lives. Press play below to listen to this special episode (or find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, and Stitcher):
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In the first part of this episode, we’re talking to Carly. Carly and I worked together for years on the same team at the American Refugee Committee which is now called Alight. On that team we worked to share stories of people surviving disaster and building their lives in new places. We bonded over the incredible privilege of learning from refugees and Alight’s frontline service providers. And in the middle of working together, Carly and her husband Tad moved into a house down the street from my family. So, we’ve become neighbors. Carly works now as a communications consultant and writer based out of Kigali, Rwanda, where she and her husband moved this past January. About a month ago, they evacuated Rwanda because of COVID-19 and, because their house is being rented out, they moved to their family cabin in Wisconsin. When we talked on April 7, Carly was just settling into life at the cabin, which is, frankly, a shock after rushing out of her home in Kigali…
In the second part of the episode, Carly talks to Heidi Boynton, the founder and executive director of Mini Mermaids, an after school running club for elementary aged kids and teens. Carly and Heidi talked on April 1. Heidi is many things to many people. She’s a coach, mentor, house-builder, Iron Man athlete, public speaker, yoga instructor, and race MC. About 20 years ago, Heidi was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer, which both puts her in a more precarious position than others during the pandemic, but which has also prepared her to protect herself in ways that many of us are just getting used to. Like every challenge life has thrown her way, Heidi is moving through this one with two eyes set on the future….
In the last part of this episode, Carly talks with Jacques. Jacques is a friend of mine and Carly’s from our days at Alight. And before Carly and Tad evacuated, they got to spend time with Jacques in Kigali, Rwanda. When Carly and Jacques spoke on April 5, Jacques was working from home where he continues to help lead the COVID-19 response for Alight in refugee camps in Rwanda and helps connect his teams to Alight’s HQ in Minneapolis. He’s also newly engaged, and missing his fiance, who works in a Kigali hospital. You’ll hear Rwandan birds singing in the background in some parts of the conversation. And you’ll hear Jacques tell Carly what lockdown is like in the Rwandan capital, how he’s staying sane, and why he’s going bananas for oranges…
Here’s some of the things we talked about in this episode:
-Evacuating Rwanda and landing in Wisconsin
-Having to leave your dog behind
-Country or city? (Spoiler: Carly is loving the country during this pandemic!
-Gratitude and privilege
-Living day to day with an unexpected future
-Baking perfect chocolate chip cookies
-Eating all of those chocolate chip cookies in one sitting
-Putting things into perspective
-Becoming “retired” people overnight
-Looking out for bald eagles
-Traveling during Covid-19
-Going bananas on oranges
-Social distancing from your fiance
-Frontline health staff in Rwanda
-Life in lockdown in Kigali
-Responding to COVID-19 in a refugee camp
-The importance of showering
-What it’s like to be immune-compromised during a pandemic
-Being kind to yourself
Read Carly’s writing here: https://medium.com/@CarlyLunden
Heidi’s Tedx Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbNDisGJ1wE
Find out more about Jacques’ team at Alight here: https://wearealight.org/
Thank you for listening.
And thank you to Carly, Heidi and Jacques for coming on the podcast and for connecting with all of us.
If feel like someone you know might feel comforted by hearing how everyday people are getting through these tough days, please share this podcast with them.